The Division of Student Affairs has launched a new digital organization system for campus clubs to mixed reviews.
On May 4, Gobbler Connect became available to all student organizations on campus. Groups are able to gather all information in one place and submit forms electronically, whereas all previous exchanges involved paperwork.
“One of the biggest issues that we have is student organizations that come in from year to year (saying), ‘I didn’t get anything passed on from last year’s officers, don’t know where to start, don’t know what to do,’” said Steve Burrell, assistant director for student organizations. ”We felt the functionality within this would be very helpful to our student organizations.”
Right now, there are 477 student groups registered on Gobbler Connect. Organizations are required to fill out registration forms through the website, which has caused trouble for some.
Carly Gallagher, treasurer of the Rock Climbing Club, had a difficult time setting up the club page for registration.
“It was just frustrating. (The) way it was set up was very poorly done because there was almost no direction on what to do and how to go about registering for clubs or what the process was,” Gallagher said.
In the future, re-registering will be a one-step process since most of the organizations will already be on the website, Burrell said. He will also be hosting training sessions for student group leaders on how to manage Gobbler Connect.
Gallagher believes Gobbler Connect will be a good resource, but will not be used as frequently as expected by its designers.
“I’m not sure that a lot of clubs are going to be very active in using it because most clubs already have Facebook pages and also websites and the Listserv that students are going to for information. This is kind of just tacking on one more thing,” Gallagher said.
However, Burrell hopes the site will serve as a compliment to social media sitesorganizations are already using. According to him, student groups are now able to gather all information in one place and submit forms electronically without the hassle of paper forms, a service not available on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Burrell is most excited about organizations tracking their service hours on the site. Currently, Greek life is tracking their own hours in yearly reports, VT Engage is working with student groups to document hours and individual organizations are recording their own work.
“If they track it in here, we’ll be able to report that this year we had 27,000 individual students that put in 1.3 million hours of community service. That’s not something we’ve ever been able to capture, so I hope that our student groups will utilize that,” Burrell said.
In addition to helping students organize themselves, Gobbler Connect is formatted in a way intended to appeal to students by looking similar to other popular social media sites. Campus Labs, a company dedicated to improving connectivity on campuses, designed the website. They have brought this design to 300 other campuses in the country, customizing it to each campus life.
“We want our student organizations to see the benefit of what they can do in one place managing their student organization,” Burrell said.
If popularity rises, Burrell hopes faculty and administration will join Gobbler Connect in the future.
GobblerConnect could link all student organizations in one easy-to-use forum. But at present, it won’t. What appears to be poor beta testing alienates student groups from taking advantage of the service.
Since its inception, it has been impossible for groups to reserve classrooms. Having a website that cannot do such a basic function defeats its purpose.
It is also unclear how to do many of its other features, so groups will have a hard time tapping its full potential.
Had the university tested the website more, these problems could have pre-emptively been fixed.